Greater confidence, better interpersonal skills, more job opportunities: these are just some of the benefits The Challenge brings to the young people that participate in its programmes. “Different backgrounds, constrained opportunities, and generation gaps can breed mistrust amongst young people and between generations,” explained Jon Yates, Director and Co-founder at The Challenge. “We aim to change this by bringing together people with different backgrounds and experiences to improve equality and build trust, understanding, skills, and networks that will open up new and sometimes unimagined opportunities.”
The Challenge currently runs three programmes across the UK: National Citizen Service (NCS), a community engagement project that promotes social mixing and life skills for 15 to 17 year olds; Head Start, providing volunteering opportunities and workshops to enhance interpersonal and employability skills; and Step Forward, an award-winning 12-month apprenticeship programme for 17 to 20 year olds.
In 2016, Salesforce became a part of the Step Forward programme, adding an IT-based apprenticeship to The Challenges’ portfolio of opportunities. “More than four out of five participants believe they are better at understanding other people after completing our Step Forward programme, and nine out of 10 go straight into full-time work or education,” explained Yates.
Currently in a successful first year, the young Salesforce apprentices are demonstrating the power of embracing this technology. Whilst working and studying they are gaining Salesforce accreditations, winning the respect of employers, and even being headhunted for lucrative roles after the programme finishes. As a result, the programme is tripling the number of Salesforce roles available for the 2017 intake. “We’re really excited that Salesforce is joining us in creating more opportunities for more young people, regardless of their background.”
But The Challenge’s relationship with Salesforce started much earlier than this. When the charity was established in 2008, its founders knew that paper forms and spreadsheets weren’t going to cut it, even for a new venture. “From previous experience in other charities, I knew from the start that we would need good systems to help us achieve our aims and extend our reach,” said Yates.
The Challenge began using Salesforce from the outset and now relies on it to manage all its programmes, activities and participants, which exceeded 45,000 in 2016. “With thousands of young people participating in our programmes, Salesforce means each gets the personalised experience and tailored support that they need,” added Yates. “It also helps us ensure we’re reaching people from diverse backgrounds and not excluding anybody.”
The Challenge uses Salesforce to capture and manage all applications for its programmes. In 2016, 185,000 online applications were processed, capturing a range of data from demographics and education to assessment scores and geographical location. “Using Salesforce, we can match the right people to the right opportunities. For example, we can identify which apprenticeship would most suit an applicant, or which company might want to interview a volunteer for a part-time job,” explained Yates. “As it’s so easy to do in Salesforce, we can help more young people and organisations without being overwhelmed.”
Applicants receive automated messages keeping them updated on status and, if successful, automated reminders for follow-on tasks, such as completing their medical details. Step Forward also uses the solution to help with marketing automation during the recruitment process. This ensures a smooth journey for young people and employers from start to finish.
Once approved, participants in the NCS programme usually have to travel to multiple locations across the country – whether to the Lake District to take part in an outdoors adventure or to a local community project to help out. To simplify logistics, The Challenge has built a custom app on App Cloud. “Transport is a major cost so being able to plan efficiently using Salesforce makes our money go further,” commented Yates. “We can consolidate our travel needs and take advantage of economies of scale, saving hundreds of thousands of pounds.”
Over the years, The Challenge has identified more processes that have benefitted from streamlining and automation in Salesforce. For example, for the Step Forward apprenticeship programme, managing contracts was becoming an increasingly onerous task. “It took one full time employee four whole months every year, just to fill out, send, and collate contracts,” explained Yates. “Now it’s all done automatically in Salesforce, that person has been able to take on a much more interesting role and we’re making better use of their skills,” said Yates.
Salesforce has also helped The Challenge to grow and innovate without being held back by system requirements. “One of the best things about Salesforce is its flexibility, which empowers our staff to make things happen and means I can get on with having ideas and finding better ways to do things,” Yates added.
The solution even contributes to the charity’s exemplary health and safety record. “All risks, incidents or near misses are recorded in Salesforce so we can spot trends and make changes if necessary to reduce risks. It’s much more comprehensive than relying on anecdotes,” explained Yates. “We also use Salesforce on mobile devices so we can double-check dietary requirements or health issues, even while out and about on adventures.”
As The Challenge grows, Salesforce is also helping its 800 employees work seamlessly together, stay informed, and avoid duplication. As well as tens of thousands of participants, The Challenge works with thousands of contacts in schools, employers, and other organisations. “Salesforce helps us identify and take advantage of existing relationships, such as a strong contact with an employer in another part of the country, and to share ideas and experiences,” said Yates.
With Salesforce ensuring its operations stay efficient as it grows, The Challenge can focus its resources on what matters most. “With Salesforce, we can help more young people build trust, confidence, and workplace skills, while remaining financially viable,” said Oliver Lee, CEO at The Challenge.